welcome back to "newsline," i'm yuko fukushima. members of japan's government tax commission have given the nod to a plan that's aimed at paying for the rising cost of social security. they approved the ruling democratic party's decision to raise the consumption tax. right now the sales tax sits at 5%. it's expected to be raised to 8% in april of 2014, and then 10% in october 2015. the commismmon also proposed increasing the maximum income tax rate to 45% from the current 40%. prime minister yoshihiko noda
and members of the dpj-led government are scheduled to attend a meeting of the joint task force on social services in early january. that's when they're scheduled to adopt a plan of tax and social services reforms. the democrats are going to consult with opposition parties. then they're expected to finalize the outline of the reform plan by the end of january. lawmakers are aiming to submit relevant bills to the diet by the end of march. from currencies to stocks, to bonds, it's been a dizzying ride on the markets this year for traders and investors. the tokyo stock exchange ended its last session of 2011 on friday. the nikkei average recorded its lowest year-end closing since 1982. analysts attribute the sluggish trading to japan's march 11th earthquake and tsunami, as well as european credit woes. traders at the tse expressed
their desire for the markets to bounce back in 2012. two representatives from japan's world cup-winning women's soccer team joined in a traditional hand-clapping ritual to usher in a prosperous year. >> translator: we hope to win gold at the 2012 london games and look forward to raising the stock market in japan. [ applause ] >> translator: as a business person, this year has been my worst, ever. >> translator: this year was bad for european government bonds. they all fell. >> our ramin mellegard tracks the ups and downs on the tse for us and here is a look back on the last trading day of 2011 and the year that was.
>> japanese stocks closed a final trading session, modestly higher. the nikkei rose 56 points to end at 8,455 with the topix up 6 points. on the year, the nikkei was down nearly 17%. and for a more detailed analysis i spoke earlier to the general manager at daiwa security, and he summarized the year with three key words starting with the letter e. >> first, of course, the earthquake and then the following tsunami impact and the radioactive contamination. so the end of the power shortage. so that took, made the production lower, and, also, the dampened the consumption through the summertime. that made the nikkei decline to
8,200. the next e factor is the euro zone issue that developed from greece to larger nations like spain and italy. also, that was aggravated by the economic weakness in the u.s. and, then, the yen appreciated against the u.s. dollar to the level below 76 yen. the third factor is earnings. japanese corporate earnings showed the downward revisions after they disclosed the fiscal year results. that was due to the higher yen. and, also, the flooding in thailand, and that made
production very lower. >> for 2012, takahashi expects a reversal of the three es and expects a rebound in japan's auto industry as well as the u.s. economy. in fact, he expects the u.s. economy to override any negative factors which may arise from issues surrounding eurozone sovereign debt problems. that may help push the nikkei to pre-march 11th levels. ramin mellegard at the tokyo stock exchange. well the candidates trying to win the u.s. republican presidential nomination haven't had much rest this holiday season. they're campaigning for votes in iowa. getting ready for the state's caucuses on january 3rd. it marks the beginning of a countrywide process that ends with the convention in august. the winner will take on barack obama in the november presidential election. well, back in 2008, obama found
success in iowa when he won his democratic party's nomination. but these days, former supporters are joining republican ranks, nhk world's jun oikawa has the story. >> iowa is the first state in the country to hold a caucus. its results are said to greatly influence outcomes in other states. demonstrators are frustrated with economic policies of president obama. at obama's headquarters in iowa, staff members were phoning voters and recruiting volunteers for his campaign. yet, this time around, they haven't encountered the same kind of passionate reception as seen in 2008. >> the president has done some remarkable things in remarkably tough times. and that's a great record. but it means that we have to go back and do in iowa what we did
in iowa four years ago. >> reporter: on the other hand, it's the republican party that has gained momentum and witnessed an increasing number of registered gop voters. the most likely of the republican candidates to emerge include former massachusetts governor, mitt romney, former speaker of the house of representatives, newt gingrich, ron paul, a long-time career congressman. while voters in iowa officially registered with the political party, they are able to change their party affilation. in the last three years, 50,000 voters left the democratic party while 20,000 iowa voters switched to the republican camp. >> we've had 33 straight months of republican voter registration gains.
i think we're going to see even more independent voters decide that republican principles and beliefs are what we need to get back on track. >> reporter: this iowa resident voted for president obama in the last election. but he has grown disappointed with his economic policies. this time, david has decided to support a republican candidate instead. >> i don't like barack obama, my wife works full-time, i work full-time. we manage our money. and you know, we've been able to save a few bucks, but we pay a ton of taxes, too. so i'm tired of that, too. i'm tired of paying. >> he appears as a guest on a local radio show once a week. on this day, the show's topic was the republican candidates. >> i'm going to play a little song, and dave, so where are you leading now you're not on the
cain train any more? >> i will have to say that i will probably support either gingrich or romney. >> i'm pretty much of a democrat has dave has probably told you, but this time around i pretty dissatisfied. i'm thinking ron paul looks good. >> reporter: he has begun to consider mitt romney as a viable candidate due to his long career in business. yet, david is still examining the pros and cons of each candidate through the televised debates. >> i support mitt romney because i like his background, coming from the private business sector. if i could take the best of gingrich and the best of mitt romney and combine them into one candidate, you'd have a perfect president. >> reporter: which candidate might be the best one to oppose incumbent president obama? american voters will be watching and listening to the candidates very closely.
jun oikawa, nhk world, iowa. north korea's national defense commission is downplaying international expectations. it's telling south korea and other nations there won't be any policy changes now that the official mourning period for kim jong il has ended. the former leader died two weeks ago, leaving his son, kim jong un, in power. the defense commission is also criticizing the south for placing its military on emergency alert following kim's death. it says north korea will never deal with south korean president, lee myung bak's administration. it lashed out at lee's government for restricting visits to kim jong il's funeral. but despite its confrontational tone, the defense commission also says north korea's armed forces and people will work to improve relations on the korean peninsula. observers say this appears to be an effort to boost the north's image ahead of next year's presidential and parliamentary elections in south korea.
the number of foreign tourists visiting japan is falling as a nuclear crisis continueand the value of the currency rises. but some innovative people are coming up with new kinds of tour packages that are attracting foreign tourists. >> reporter: three americans visit japan for a one-week tokyo vacation. they take in popular tourist sites around the city and travel to mount fuji. but unlike most tourists, they don't stay in a hotel. they stay in a japanese house. this university student lives here with friends and he invited the three americans to stay free of charge.
>> kampai! >> reporter: his guests get the chance to see and enjoy and experience how people in japan live. >> teach us how. okay. >> this would never happen in a hotel room. and it's so much fun. so i'm definitely doing it again. >> we really wanted to be able to just meet people, you know, meet japanese and learn about the culture. >> reporter: he met the three americans online through a social networking site run by an american npo. the site helps travelers and hosts from around the world meet. if they agree, the traveler can stay at the host's house for free. staying with or sharing your home with a total stranger can
be unsettling. so, the website has an evaluation system. members can rate the service of their host and right a review. and the host can rate how their guests behaved. he has hosted more than 50 people. he constantly receives requests from foreign members. >> translator: it's a good chance to speak to foreigners in english. it can broaden my world. that's why i love this system. >> reporter: here's another service attracting foreign tourists looking to experience japanese culture. takahashi started his online tourism business in august. through it, foreign travelers can get to see a side of japan that many foreigners don't know. the website offers over 20 different tours and making reservations is easy. this american used the website
to find an authentic dojo for karate training. he trained for an hour. a portion of the money he paid to the karate school went to takahashi's company. >> it was very fun. it was nice to experience something more japanese than just walking around and taking pictures of everything. >> reporter: takahashi's business receive as government subsidy. he's now trying to expand his service. on this day, he visits a cafe where the patrons can hang out and fondle rabbits. takahashi thinks this concept is uniquely japanese. and the shop appreciates his service. >> translator: before i couldn't advertise to foreigners. this system helps me. >> reporter: takahashi's customers post reviews on his website.
he hopes marketing like this boosts tourism still suffering from the march disaster. >> translator: we live in an age in which people can just go online and share their tour experiences with the world. i want to make use of that platform for my business. fishermen off japan's northeast coast are trying to get back to where they were. those in the regions hit hardest by the disaster in march have had a tough time recovering. their catch through october was down 70% from last year. a government survey compiled information from the seven months between april and october. the prefectures of iwate, miyagi and fukushima are close to one of the largest fishing grounds in the pacific ocean. the earthquake and tsunami badly damaged ports all through those areas. fishermen in eight major ports caught a little more than 64,000 tons during the period of the
survey, down 70% from a year ago. and fishermen in fukushima prefecture have voluntarily stopped fishing in waters nearby, after the nuclear accident. well, ofunato is one of the ports that suffered following the march disaster. our cameras captured the scene on the last seafood trading day of the year. workers at the city's fish market were on the job before the sun came up friday, unloading squid and flatfish from a ship into containers. >> then the auction started and people negotiated for the best price. >> translator: the damage is substantial. but hopefully everyone will be in better spirits in the new year. >> the ofunato fish market shut down to two months after the disaster.
the quake and tsunami caused piers to sink by about 80 centimeters and flooded offices. the water also damaged refrigeration systems. the market handled about half as much fish this year compared to last year. well, it's not just people in japan's fishing industry who have faced challenges. the disaster affected hundreds of thousands of residents in the country's northeast. for adults, moving forward means rebuilding homes and finding new jobs. for children, the focus is more on coming to terms with what happened on march 11th. a photographer from italy is trying to help them with that. nhk world's masami yuko shows us his unique approach. >> reporter: children in the disaster zone show how well their project is working. they're taking pictures of life after the disaster. it's part of a project called "i
see." it's organized by unicef. who want to give the children a worldwide stage to express their views and feelings about the disaster. the unicef people chose a aikawa district of iwate prefecture. it was one of the prefectures closest to the earthquake's epicenter. tsunami waves higher than ten meters battered the main street, once bustling. many residents lost their homes and family members. a clock that stopped when the tsunami hit. a parking lot that sunk beneath sea level during the quake. some children take pictures to show how they view living with the disaster and its aftermath. they also picture locals keen to get on with their lives, despite the circumstances.
some children express their joy, that everyday life is gradually getting back to normal. italian photographer giacomo pilatzi enjoys working with kids, he's been working with youngsters for more than 20 years. giacomo has also conducted workshops in countries all over the world. some worked with people who had gone through conflicts or natural disasters. in the photos, he could sense the same message of hope expressed by people in similar projects around the world. >> of course the calamity is a calamity. there's nothing that we can do about it. but what children want is always, they want to find the energy to continue and to continue their life, as a normal life as any other children. >> reporter: the reconstruction effort has been begun and signs
of progress can be seen. but some children still face an internal struggle with their harrowing experience of the march disaster. one of these children is 9-year-old asahi ishimori. the tsunami washed away his house. now he lives with his grandparents. born into a fisherman's family, he had a dream of making a living from the sea. but ever since the disaster, he hasn't gone near the ocean. >> reporter: overcoming his aversion to the sea, asahi decided to take pictures of it.
he calls this photo, the boats that worked hard. he's expressing thanks to the ships that once helped locals make a living from the sea. struggling to cope with his trauma, asahi has a message that needs getting out. >> reporter: giacomo has been offering children over the years. he hopes by putting a camera in their hands, he can help them ease their trauma. >> behind the smiles and the play, there could be something hidden. d the camera helps them to reflect about what happened to them and to kind of externalize
as much as they can. and the fact that they have to tell the story to other children, and other parts of the world encourages them to express themselves as much as possible. >> reporter: the children of the project took about 8,000 pictures. each one reflects the children's courage and their desire for their hometown to be revealed soon. masami ukon, nhk world, aikawa. well unicef officials plan to display the photos with captions written by the children when they hold exhibitions around the world. and among the locations, japan and the unicef headquarters in new york. well they plan to time the event to coincide with the first anniversary of the disaster, march 11th, 2012. and now we're joined by rachel ferguson for world weather. so rachel, it's good that all those kids are receiving
psychological care as well. >> i know it is, especially at this time of year when everyone is getting together with their families, this is definitely going to be a different kind of new year's celebration for many of those kids, i'm sure. but it's good to see them making some progress. >> exactly. so what's the weather going to be like there in tohoku for the holidays? >> the weather is not going to be too bad. we've had a winter storm up towards the north, which has been bringing some blowing snow, thunderstorms, that's moving away. so into saturday we're going to see some really nice clear conditions right along the pacific edge of japan and a return to the usual wintry pattern we see. so snow just accumulating for the northwest. much of the rest of eastern asia is also going to be dry and fine under high pressure. the exception is going to be down towards the south. the region is we have a couple of low pressure systems, one to the southeast of the philippines and one just behind our nhk symbol there to the south of vietnam, these systems are helping to bring the northeast monsoon, so it is going to be fairly heavy in terms of rain and wind for the eastern seaboard of the philippines as
well as indochina. possibility of some flooding problems here. all right temperaturewise, 32 in manila, 33 in bangkok. the upper teens in taipei as well as hong kong. just around 10-degree mark in shanghai, chongqing. tokyo coming in at 9, 3 in seoul, 4 in beijing and minus 14 in ulan bator. i want to take you to india to get you updated on the cyclonic storm we were tracking this week. it did make landfall earlier on today, and quickly downgraded, it's now a deep depression, so the wind has died down, but we're not out of the woods in terms of rain. more heavy rain in the next six to 12 hours could cause more flooding problems here before the system finally dissipates by saturday morning. the rain should be a thing of the past by saturday. as we head now into north america. once again, we're going to see the southern half of the continent staying dry and fine and temperatures are above-average, too, and we'll check on those in a second. we have a pacific storm bringing rain to the coast. it is also going to be bringing
some significant snowfall. another 35, 40 centimeters for the cascades and the northern rockies. accompanied by some pretty strong gusts as well. ahead of that system, coming into the northern plains, gusts could reach about 120 kilometers per hour. we have another system just to the south of the great lakes, this one not so heavy in terms of the precipitation. but it will be a wintry mix. so rain as well as some snowshowers and also some freezing rain, which can make for dangerous driving, a lot of people going to be on the roads, going to see relatives at this time of year. so do take care with that. new york city, no snow for you. 11 degrees for the high. but once we reach boston, you'll see a few snowshowers. we see warmer temperatures hitting d.c., 13 for you, 16 in atlanta, 17 in oklahoma city and 13 degrees for you in denver. and that's going to last through saturday, those slightly warmer temperatures, all right. as we head into europe, well it has just been storm afte coming in through the atlantic into the british isles, you guessed it, we've got this thick cloud coming in. if we bring that away, you'll
barely see the british isles underneath all of that wet weather and all of the wind. and that's going to be affecting much of france here as well. and pushing up into scandinavia once again. for all of those snow-lovers out there who are going to be hitting the slopes this holiday time, i can tell you there's going to be about 50 centimeters of snow in the swiss alps, maybe southern germany, austria, you'll be seeing a good amount of snow as well. in the balkans we have another system that's affecting southern italy, too. storms to the south and then in the upper elevations, it will be snow. some parts of bulgaria getting about 15 centimeters. all right here are your temperatures. out to the east, we're just around freezing in moscow, warsaw, kiev. minus 2 for stockholm's high. 4 for berlin and also for vienna. and then to the south and out to the west, we're a little bit warmer, 13 in london and also in paris. here's your extended forecast.